NY Theater Review Sandi Durell
Curious? An understatement in the world of Christopher Boone, a 15 year old savant whose scientific and mathematical skills far exceed most and border on genius. Based on Mark Haddon’s 2003 novel, reinterpreted for the stage by playwright Simon Stephens with brilliant direction by Marianne Elliott (War Horse), we’re thrown into an over abundance of sensory theatrics that pull at our every emotional and visual core.
Christopher is played by recent Julliard grad Alex Sharp in this, his Broadway debut, which will surely catapult him to many award nominations this season. The incident is the murder of Wellington, a neighbor’s dog – death by pitchfork – as Christopher embarks on a detective adventure to find the killer.
But this isn’t your usual thriller. It’s set in a stark 3-sided grid of graph-like black box walls (set and costumes Bunny Christie) upon which the workings of Christopher’s internal mind stream – numbers, letters, words (video Finn Ross) fly across the grid, accessorized by Paule Constable’s lighting and Ian Dickinson’s sound design. The use of cubes (some that light) and toy trains and buildings, toy people, trees and tracks that expand, take over the stage.
There are breathless moments as Christopher’s mind takes him whirling, twirling through space, as he is passed and spun by the other actors or riding down an escalator, a projection on the back wall, accomplished by Sharp’s fearlessly stepping on large pegs coming out of the wall (what an illusion!). The imaginative choreographic feats are a compilation of Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett’s inventiveness.
As an autistic child, Christopher does not like to be touched and howls violently when he is. He lives in the countryside in Swinden with his gruff father Ed (Ian Barford) who loves and cares for him, but drinks and has a temper. So when he tells Christopher his mother has died, circumstances dictate that he must find her and, in so doing, face interactions and situations that provide wild, high tech and high energy moments as Christopher journeys to the Paddington station platform, on the tube to London, jumping down onto a track to save his pet rat Toby, creating those gulp gulp is he gonna make it moments!
Throughout, Christopher’s teacher Siobhan (a caring Francesca Faridany) reads his story, as a narrator, persuading him to turn it into a play. (this can become somewhat confusing as a play within a play scenario)
Finally, arriving in London, he confronts his very much alive and loving mother Judy (Enid Graham) who had left him not knowing her estranged husband would pronounce her as dead.
Young Alex Sharp has developed all the needed physical affectations of a boy suffering with autism and organically displays himself as such. He is an intensely talented young actor. Kudos go out to the entire cast who play multiple engaging roles.
Thus far, Curious Dog is this season’s bright and shining extraordinary shooting star.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time – Ethel Barrymore Theatre 243 West 47 Street, NYC – 212 239-6200 www.telecharge.com Running time: 2 hrs 25 min. www.curiousonbroadway.com